10/20/2010 3:59PM

They Might Be Giants


My San Francisco Giants have been in the World Series only twice since the Breeders’ Cup began in 1984, and this year could be third. If so, here’s hoping things turn out differently this time, on both the diamond and the oval.

Baseball and the Breeders’ Cup are inextricably linked each fall since the Cup now often falls just a day or two after the latest possible date for a seventh and final  World Series game. That’s how it would work again this year: a game 7 (if necessary) on Thursday, Nov. 4 with the Cup races following on Friday the 5th and Saturday the 6th.

After beating the Phillies 3-0 in the third game of the National League Championship Series yesterday, the Giants have an improbable 2-1 lead and are two victories away from facing the Rangers or Yankees in the World Series. The Phillies were heavy favorites going into the NLCS, deservedly so, and even now feel like even-money to take 3 of the next 4. 

The Giants? I root for weird teams, none of them based in my hometown. Apparently my contrarianism began in childhood, so instead of rooting for the home team I went for the franchises led by my favorite player in each sport in the 1960’s, pledging lifetime allegiance to the Celtics (because of Bill Russell), the Colts (Johnny Unitas), the Red Wings (Gordie Howe) and, most of all, the Giants (Willie Mays). 

For the most part, these proved to be fortuitous alignments in the ensuing 45 years. Since 1965, the Celtics have won 9 NBA Championships, the Red Wings have four Stanley Cups and the Colts have won two Super Bowls. As for the Giants,I’m still waiting. They had two chances, suffering one humiliating loss and one heartbreaker.

In 1989, the Giants made their first Series appearance in 27 years and were swept by the Oakland A’s in four games, during which they became the only team in Series history never to have the lead at any point in any game. More memorable was what happened half an hour before the scheduled start of Game 3: An earthquake that rocked the Bay Area and delayed the game for 10 days.

When play resumed on Oct. 27, the Giants were shellacked 9-6 and 13-7, games I watched from the Diplomat Hotel in Hallandale Beach, Fla., where a week later that Sunday Silence-Easy Goer BC Classic didn’t turn out quite the way I hoped either.

In 2002, the Series overlapped an early Oct. 26 Breeders’ Cup at Arlington Park. On Thursday night I skipped the press party and stayed in the hotel watching the Giants win Game 5 in a 16-4 rout that gave them a 3-2 Series lead as the series went back to Anaheim for Saturday and Sunday night games.

On Saturday afternoon, Volponi won the Classic in a head-scratcher, and some very suspicious-looking Pick-6 payoffs were posted. But all was well that night as the Giants had a 5-0 lead in the 7th and were eight outs away from their first championship since 1954. Don’t make me relive all the subsequent details, but they somehow blew the 5-0 lead and lost 6-5, then lost again on Sunday, by which time the Drexel boys’ Fix-Six scheme was beginning to emerge.

So here’s to happier Cup and Series results in 2010, if the Giants even get that far. Whether they do or not, they’re an easy team to root for, with their likeable young aces Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain and a couple of rookies whose names alone make them sound like throwbacks: Tonight’s starting battery is 21-year-old pitcher Madison Bumgarner and 23-year-old catcher Buster Posey. The team is all arm and little bat   until last night’s 3-0 relative slaughter, all four of their playoff victories had been one-run games, and all their postseason slugging has come from an obscure journeyman named Cody Ross, a onetime aspiring rodeo clown.

First pitch tonight is 7:57 pm ET.


[Update 11:43 pm: The Giants are one victory away from the World Series. They just took a 3-1 lead in the NLCS with a 6-5 victory over the Phillies on a Juan Uribe acrifice fly in the bottom of the 9th. Buster Posey went 4-for-5 with two doubles and two RBI's. Game 5 is Thursday night, a rematch of Game 1 starters Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay.] 

Holy Bull More than 1 year ago
Steve- What a 2 weeks lie ahead of us. The Giants' in the World Series and the excitement and anticipation of the Breeders Cup. It's a great time to be a Giants' and horse racing fan.
John M. More than 1 year ago
I was surprised and pleased to read this blog. I have been a Giant fan since I was old enough to start reading the sport pages in 1954 the last time the Giants won the WS . At that time there were plenty of New York papers to read. I to was a Willie Mays fan, so I stuck with the Giants when they moved to San Francisco and have continued to root for them even though I've always lived on the east coast mostly in Phillies territory. The 2002 result was awful. I believe the Giants' closer Rob Nenn was pitching with a sore arm and never was the same after that series . If he hadn't been hurt the result likely would have been diiferent. I have a queasy feeling about the two games in Philly, but I'll be glued to the tube anyway. I always enjoy your blogs and columns but this was the best.
ML/NJ More than 1 year ago
Since others are talking about their own Willie Mays moments, I think I should say that I was there in the lower-left-field stands for the most replayed video moment in sports history: The Catch. (This was the first World Series game I attended.) My parents were there for the little known non-catch in the '51 Series. Mays trapped a ball, and the umps called the batter out. But I guess I was too young to be invited for that. My first baseball game was earlier that season when the Giants and Jansen beat Boston and Spahn 4-1.
seekingthegold More than 1 year ago
Rooting for phils since i bet them to win NL pennant at 5.5-1 in june. did do a hedge prior to series and bet the giants to win world series in mid september at 12-1. so I am all over the map. Not to mention I got buster posey at 2.75-1 for rookie of the year. As you can see I love those future bets. can't wait to see how this ends up. something tells me the rangers win world series and heyward wins rookie of year and drains my breeders cup stash.
ejs More than 1 year ago
Read a biography of Willie Mays recently. Like all men who fully realize the extraordinary gifts they are blessed with, Wille comes across of as a man of a certain genius; the kind that allows a man to listen to his inborn guardian and thereby stay true to himself.) There's a great Leo Durocher quote in the book. We know the story: Willie started his career 0-12, was as down on himself as he's ever been, and now he was facing Warren Spahn. I think the count is 0-2 when Willie hits a shot over the left field roof leaves the crowd gasping, some accounts say silent, with awe. When asked by the reporters what he thought of the home run Leo put it in its proper perspective (I'm presenting the family friendly version) "I ain't ever seen a freaking ball, leave the freaking park, so freaking fast, in my whole freaking life." This from a guy who played with Babe Ruth in 1927. Of course, Warren Spahn's take on the shot deserves a mention also: "I thought is was a pretty good pitch for the first sixty feet." You're right, the Giants are an easy team to root for.
gordon More than 1 year ago
I think Rajiv M. should invest in some new equipment. He sure seems to have a lot of saddle slipage and weight pad problems.
Tom Meites More than 1 year ago
What's the back story on Volponi and the suspicious pick-sixes? Green
fort marcy More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve, Have not played a penny since Saratoga, but still look forward to your posts. Not a Giant fan, ( St. Loius Cards, my hero Bob Gibson). But I do enjoy watching your guys with their great staff and Buster Posey isn't to shabby either. My second favorite player from 60's ( Jaun Marichal). Your post sure brought memories of those two series as well as BC's from those years. The way you tied them together was excellent writing. Wish you the very best of luck and will throw any good karma I have toward your Giants. Looking forward to your BC posts. Am interested how you will construct your Pick-6 tickets with the move back to dirt @ Churchill. From your posts, I know last year was rough with passing of your pet and the great J. Hirsch. Keep on moving on, and hope you see many winners in the future.
Bill More than 1 year ago
Toughest beat the Gints ever had was the '62 Series. That ball McCovey hit would have been a game changer if Richardson hadn't have been positioned perfectly. Only the Yankees could be so lucky...
john More than 1 year ago
MUST WIN TONIGHT....for the Giants! SF WILL NOT win another game in Philly.